Menemsha MacBain

“Guys, I’m Sure That Just Beyond This Minefield of Thorn Bushes and 15 Foot Bamboo Forest is a Nice Running Path!”

It probably wasn’t a good idea. We should have known that at the time. But we’re teenagers, being foolhardy is what we’re good for.

I was on a run with the cross-country team, and we had found an unknown path. Most people weren’t too keen on heading down a forested path to who knows where, when they could just as easily go home. A few of us, however, slightly invigorated by the passion of exploration, but mostly tired of running on cracked sidewalks, plunged off into the woods.

We ran downhill, weaving through trees, hurdling roots and following a path that lead towards the sound of highway. At the base of the hill, the path split, one branch leading farther into the woods, and one, we thought, leading approximately in the direction from which we had come. Following this promising path, we found that sunlight penetrated through the trees more often, and we delighted in the waves of light that passed over us.

Eventually, we tumbled out of the woods into a sea of thorn bushes. The path continued through the bushes, becoming increasingly narrow as it snaked between the needles. Intrigued, we continued, wondering where this confident little path could possibly lead.

As we continued along, bending and twisting to avoid the long, greedy thorns, the path became narrower and narrower and choked with thorns. This, however, failed to discourage us. Fueled by insatiable curiosity, and stopping frequently to disentangle an unlucky companion who walked to close to a bush, we slowed to a walk. When the path was completely carpeted with thorns, we began to doubt the wisdom of our choice to continue, but having come so far through the thorns, it seemed sure that we would return to forest or civilization soon. So we continued.

The path ended abruptly. It, bizarrely, become a knee-high tunnel through the briars, and although there was a light at the end, was clearly impassible. Our options were clear: go back, and relive all the agony, but without the hope of new discoveries, or forge a trail of our own as the intrepid explorers we had become. Ever optimistic, we chose the less sensible one, and filtered into the surrounding woods through a break in the needles. That was definitely a mistake. Our self-proclaimed leader headed for the sound of the highway, convinced that once we found it we would know where we were.

Again we precipitated down a hill, lured by the hum of the highway, but this time were stopped short by a wall of reeds, or bamboo, as we jokingly called it. From the other side we could hear the highway, but the seemingly impenetrable forest of stalks, towering over us stopped us short. Puzzled by this insurmountable barrier, we stood for a moment, before our daring leader shoved decisively into the jungle. She lay about her with her arms and legs, carving a temporary way through. We quickly followed, anxious not to lose her, but also mindful of the stories of children wandering into cornfields and becoming utterly lost. We could no longer see the way back, and barely view the darkening sky above us through the golden tufted ‘bamboo’.

A cry from up ahead told us that she’d made it through, and we stumbled out into the light of day, and found ourselves in a weed-clogged ditch beside Route 2. When we climbed up out of the ditch, we realized our error. Cars whizzed by, separated from us by a strip of gravel, a flimsy guardrail, and the breakdown lane, which was a lot smaller than it had always seemed. There was nothing we could do, however. We had no cell-phone, and the weeds in the ditch were too tall to run in. So, choking on exhaust, we ran single file and terrified along the gravel strip. Cars honked at us, either because we were girls, or because running on the highway is illegal, it didn’t matter. Any honk and we jumped like startled rabbits.

And then the ditch ended, the guardrail melted away, and the nightmare really got going. The fragile protection was gone, and in its absence we realized how reassuring it had been. Now it was just us, four very small, very breakable, very mortal girls, running down the side of the highway, trying very much not to think about how very big, very fast, very indestructible cars were, and that while, in a collision, we might not dent one of them, a car would certainly dent us. A sign informed us: “Lexington: 1 mile.” The distance that seems so very short in a car, seemed to us to be an eternity stretching out before us. But we kept running, praying that the police would come arrest us and save us from the highway.

Then an overpass loomed overhead. It was a familiar overpass that we had run on before. And lo! A hill covered in trees and dense undergrowth led up to it. A path, we gleefully realized, to safety. Our leader insisted it would be safer to continue running to the nearby exit, but, blinded by a need for safety, we overruled her, and eagerly scurried up the paved incline under the bridge.

HONK! A truck barreled by, and the noise that seems so comical to fifth-grade bus riders was aggressive, and overwhelmingly loud. The overpass further amplified the sound, to the extent that it was no longer a honk; it was a wall of dense, terrible sound.

Fearful, we scurried into the bushes and up to the road, to safety. To the crossing guard watching us, we must have been quite a spectacle. Four girls crawling out of the bushes from the highway, bleeding and covered with black marks from the bamboo, and white as sheets from fear, who then proceeded to run away.


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